A provincial court has ruled that a judicial recount will not be required following a tight Saanich council race that came down to the narrowest of margins.
Rishi Sharma, who had sought the judicial recount, lost to Teale Phelps Bondaroff by a mere 11 votes during the municipal election on Oct. 15.
The district announced on Tuesday (Oct. 25) that the provincial court decided a judicial recount of the votes will not be necessary.
“The District of Saanich would like to thank all candidates for their participation and officially congratulate our new mayor and council as they embark on this next term,” Angila Bains, chief election officer, said in a statement.
In an election which saw the municipality’s eligible voter turnout drop from roughly 38 per cent in 2018 to about 31 per cent this year, Phelps Bondaroff secured the eighth and final seat on council with a total of 9,218 votes. Sharma fell just short with 9,207 votes.
“After Mr. Sharma exercised his right to apply for a recount, the court has ruled that there were insufficient grounds for a recount to be ordered. Saanich employs incredibly reliable voting machines and residents should be confident that their votes have been accurately counted,” Phelps Bondaroff wrote in a statement to Black Press Media. “I am looking forward to getting back to learning the ropes as a new Saanich councillor and working hard to improve Saanich.”
In a phone interview, Sharma told Black Press Media that he was very surprised and somewhat confused by the court’s decision. “We just assumed that with such a thin margin, it would happen,” he said. “Common sense suggested it would happen.”
Sharma said the court’s reason for the decision ultimately boiled down to a lack of evidence to suggest that there was an issue with the vote tabulation machines that counted ballots on election day. Despite his disappointment, Sharma said he respects the judge’s decision, adding that he and his legal team will not be attempting to make an appeal.
“I would love to be a part of council and be a part of the table and move forward with these very serious ideas I wanted to work on like road safety, environmental protection, increasing agriculture and housing affordability,” he said. “But I can’t fight this as well. It was just too much for us.”
Phelps Bondaroff is just one of two newcomers to be elected to Saanich council in 2022. He’ll be joined by fellow first-time councillor Mena Westhaver, in addition to the six incumbents who won re-election.
The new mayor and councillors will be sworn in at their inaugural council meeting on Nov. 7.
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